By Alberto Ariza
NEW PALTZ – The State University of New York at New Paltz women’s volleyball team concluded the annual Hawks Invitational as the only team undefeated after earning victories over Alfred University, 3-0 and Williams College, 3-1. With their two wins, the Hawks improve to 4-3 on the season.
In set one against the Saxons, SUNY New Paltz quickly fell 0-3. A kill by junior outside hitter Julie Greenspan put the Hawks on the board to get their offense started and they finally got their first lead of the game at 7-4. SUNY New Paltz held onto the advantage for the remaining part of the set, claiming a 25-13 win.
The second set began with a back-and-forth scoring affair between the two teams until a bad set from the Saxons gave the Hawks the lead. Alfred inched closer, but SUNY New Paltz started pulling away and ultimately captured their second win, 25-17.
The Saxons quickly built a four point advantage until a kill by junior setter Caleigh Carr gave the Hawks their first point of the set. SUNY New Paltz kept fighting and ended the set, 25-19 after a kill by Victoria Konicki.
Senior middle hitter Kerri Neville led SUNY New Paltz with eight points. Sophomore outside hitter Courtney Gebhardt followed with seven points and led the Hawks with seven kills on 12 total attempts, while finishing with a .417 hitting percentage. Junior setter Haley Timarky collected 20 assists, while senior libero Nicole Fellone concluded with 11 digs and four aces.
“I’m definitely less nervous,” said Gebhardt on her performance. “… I was definitely not myself in the Scranton tournament and I definitely showed myself this tournament. I’m definitely less nervous putting the ball down, doing what I have to do on my side of the court and just be more confident in myself.” SUNY New Paltz started its matchup against the Ephs all fired up with a raucous crowd behind them, opening the first set with six straight points. It began with a kill by junior middle hitter Demi Herasme, two service aces from sophomore defensive specialist Nicole Cooke and several attack errors from Williams. The Hawks never looked back and came out victorious in set one, 25-17, ending with a kill by Neville.
SUNY New Paltz struggled in the beginning of the second set after establishing an early 3-1 lead, as Williams scored nine consecutive points. The Ephs were unstoppable after the Hawks could not find their rhythm, as the hosts only scored nine points in the frame.
Putting the lopsided loss behind them, SUNY New Paltz began the third set with a 7-1 lead. Several attack errors, service errors and a bad set gave the Ephs an opportunity to tie the score at 15, but the Hawks ended up grabbing an important decided third set, 25-21.
“Momentum is a crazy thing in volleyball.” said SUNY New Paltz coach Matt Giufre. “…After that set was done, we talked in a huddle and was like even if we would have lost 27-25, the match was still 1-1. The nice thing about volleyball is that the score doesn’t carry over. We get to start new and I thought our team showed tremendous resilience to come out and forget about it and get back to what we know how to do well.”
SUNY New Paltz built on its momentum and quickly established a 9-1 cushion to start the fourth. Several kills coming from Herasme, Gebhardt, Timarky, and Van Pelt paved the way. Van Pelt had the final word as a kill ended the game and the Hawks stole set four, 25-22, and the match, 3-1.
Gebhardt finished with 11 kills. Both Neville and Van Pelt followed with eight, while Timarky added 30 assists and 15 digs to conclude the day.
The Hawks are back on the court Sept. 12 as they travel to Hunter College to take on the purple and yellow Hawks in a non-conference matchup. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m.